Answering the call
Thursday, April 13, 2017 7:25 AM
PUTNAM COUNTY – When making a 911 call, the caller is often stressed or panicky and wants help as soon as possible. It is up to the dispatcher to provide that help.
This week, April 9 to April 15, is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, a time to recognize those dispatchers.
“A dispatcher has to multi-task,” said Deputy Brad Brubaker, the Putnam County 911 coordinator. “They have to dispatch what is needed to scene whether it be EMS, fire fighters, or law enforcement. At the same time, they are having to log when these safety service people go out and sometimes even take more calls that are coming in about an accident or a fire.”
Brubaker said dispatchers can’t be there physically, but must be the eyes and ears for the caller.
“They are trying to protect the caller the best they can,” he said. “It may mean telling them to get out of a burning building, or staying away from power lines that have come down in an accident.”
Brubaker said domestic situations can also be very stressful for a dispatcher. “They may have a caller that is screaming as someone tries to get into their home,” he said. “They do their best to help that person while they are dispatching law enforcement. It may mean telling them to lock themselves in a bathroom to get more time.”
Brubaker also said dispatchers have at least eight months on-the-job training before they are permitted to do dispatching on their own. This on-the-job training includes learning emergency medical dispatching.
“Sometime a dispatcher must talk a caller through doing CPR on someone until medics arrive,” he said. “Other times it may be helping a caller who has someone choking.”
“It’s a very stressful career,” Brubaker admitted. “One minute you may get a call about someone who has locked their keys in the car and the next you may be instructing someone how to do CPR.”
Brubaker said they receive at least 5,000 911 calls yearly in Putnam County.
“I appreciate all these dispatchers do,” he said. Putnam County has nine full time and one part time dispatcher. Brubaker said he is giving a thermos with 911 on it and a hand-written note to each dispatcher for their service. He also will have a bouquet of flowers for the dispatchers to enjoy.
“We all need to say a special thank you this week if you meet a dispatcher,” he said. “They do an excellent job under very stressful situation.